Charles Bricker is a 42-year veteran of the news and sportswriting wars with distinguished service at the San Jose Mercury News in California and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He began annually covering the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 1993. He also went 28-14 dishing daily picks for the 2009 U.S. Open for Covers.com and 29-16 at the 2010 Aussie Open. He's back and making picks for Covers throughout the U.S. Open.
MELANIE OUDIN (-242) VS. OLGA SAVCHUK (+221)
Oudin, the engaging sprite from suburban Atlanta who melted a lot of hearts at last year's U.S. Open, probably can recapture a little of that magic against her No. 143-ranked Ukraine opponent.
Oudin got a lot of over-the-top publicity a year ago with her hustle, but some could see she had only a mediocre serve. She's 18-23 since the '09 Open, though her ranking has steadied at No. 43. Her game has drooped, but not enough to lose here. Oudin leads the head to head 1-0. Pick:
Oudin (DANIELA HANTUCHOVA (+108) VS. DINARA SAFINA (-117)
Because of all the time she's been off with injury, Safina, a former No. 1, has seen her ranking plunge, but that only gives Day 1 viewers a quality match to watch.
Safina is slowly, very slowly, working her way back to form and holds a 5-3 lifetime edge on her Slovakian opponent. But Hantuchova is nothing if not steady, always hanging around in the rankings in the 20s. Pick:
Hantuchova TAYLOR DENT (-117) VS. ALEJANDRO FALLA (+108)
Solid, close matchups for Dent who's lost more times than he's won this season (8-15 for the year). Falla, at 14-15, is feeling chipper since going five sets with Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
These two have never played each other before. Take Dent for two reasons: (a) It's early in the tournament and he'll never be this fresh again for awhile and (b) he'll collect about 20 aces. Pick:
Dent KEI NISHIKORI (-148) VS. EVGENY KOROLEV (+136)
At some point, Nishikori is going to get over his injuries and assert the talent we all know he has. He's made methodical progress since his early-season elbow surgery and I think he's ripe for a good, though not a great, win here.
Korolev, ranked 73, is the bogus Kazakhstani. He was born in Russia, is a Russian citizen but is paid to fly the Kazakhstan flag. He deserves to lose for that reason alone. Pick:
Nishikori ANA IVANOVIC (-216) VS. EKATERINA MAKAROVA (+198)
First-time meeting and this is decidedly not the Ana Ivanovic who won the French Open a few years ago.
She's struggled mightily with several aspects of her game and is only 16-15 for the season. Her ranking of No. 40 is an embarrassment, but she'll get through this one.